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The Power of Paying It Forward: Why Being a Mentor for Men of Color is So Important


The impact of mentoring – at a glance.

  • 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentoring programs. (Source: Deloitte)
  • 84% of CEOs and 69% of senior executives have had a mentor at some point in their career. (Source: Harvard Business Review)
  • Young people who have mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 130% more likely to hold leadership positions. (Source: Mentor – The National Mentoring Partnership)
  • Mentored employees are promoted 5X more often than those who do not have mentors. (Source: Mentor – The National Mentoring Partnership)


Have you ever had a mentor who helped guide you in your personal and professional life? As men of color, mentorship can be a powerful tool to help us overcome obstacles and achieve success in our careers.

With the unique obstacles that we face, having a mentor who has overcome challenges can be especially valuable. The benefits of mentorship include professional development, support and personal growth.

In this article, we will explore the power of paying it forward through mentorship, and why being a mentor for men of color is so important.

What Mentorship Is (and What It Isn’t)

Quite simply, mentorship is a relationship between two people where an experienced mentor provides guidance to a less experienced mentee. It isn’t just about finding someone to help you get a job or do you a favor; it’s about building a mutual relationship and helping each other out.

The role of a mentor is to push the mentee, provide feedback and share experiences to help the mentee grow and learn. Your mentor should help you become the best you can be, both in your personal and professional life.

Mentorship in Action: Here are a few examples of what mentoring looks like.

  • A veteran journalist taking a new intern under their wing, showing them the ropes of the newsroom and providing feedback on their writing.
  • A successful entrepreneur mentoring a young startup founder, offering advice on fundraising, product development and marketing strategies.
  • An experienced teacher acting as a mentor to a new teacher, sharing lesson plans, classroom management techniques and offering support during the first year of teaching.
  • A senior executive mentoring a junior employee within their company, helping them develop leadership skills and providing guidance on career advancement.
  • A community leader mentoring a young person, serving as a positive role model and offering guidance on academic and personal development.

Mentoring Is a Mutual Relationship

Mentorship is a two-way street. A good mentor recognizes the value of the mentee’s perspective and knowledge and incorporates it into their own thinking and decision-making.

Likewise, the mentee can provide valuable insights and feedback to the mentor, helping them refine their approach and skills. Mentorship should be a collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship, where both parties can learn, grow and succeed together.


  • Provide guidance and advice.
  • Share their knowledge and experience.
  • Offer constructive feedback.
  • Challenge the mentee to grow and improve.
  • Act as a sounding board for ideas and concerns.
  • Introduce the mentee to new networks and opportunities.
  • Help the mentee develop their skills and abilities.
  • Support the mentee through difficult situations.
  • Provide encouragement and motivation.
  • Serve as a positive role model for the mentee to emulate.

A MENTEE can offer the mentor:

  • A fresh perspective and new ideas.
  • A chance to develop new skills, such as leadership or communication.
  • A sense of purpose and fulfillment from helping others.
  • An opportunity to learn from the mentee’s experiences and perspectives.
  • A chance to expand their own network and connect with younger generations.
  • A deeper understanding of the challenges faced by mentees and how to better support them.
  • Recognition and validation for their expertise and accomplishments
  • A sense of pride in watching their mentee grow and succeed in their career.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Good Mentor?

Being a mentor is an important responsibility that requires certain qualities and characteristics to be effective. Not everyone is cut out to be a mentor, and it’s essential to recognize if you have what it takes before taking on the role.

First and foremost, a good mentor is someone who is patient, empathetic and an active listener. They should also be open-minded, non-judgmental and willing to learn from their mentee.

A mentor should have relevant experience and knowledge in the field they are mentoring in and be able to provide constructive feedback and guidance. Additionally, a mentor should have the time and dedication to commit to the mentoring relationship and be able to maintain confidentiality.

Here are 5 questions to consider before agreeing to become a mentor.

  • What specific skills or knowledge do you have that could benefit a mentee?
  • Are you willing and able to commit the time/energy necessary to be a good mentor?
  • Do you have experience in the industry or field your potential mentee is interested in?
  • Are you comfortable with providing honest and constructive feedback to your mentee?
  • Do you have the ability to listen actively and provide guidance without being directive?

If you possess these qualities and are committed to helping others succeed, you may be an excellent candidate to become a mentor.

Go Ahead and Pay It Forward

Being a mentor can be an incredibly rewarding experience for you and your mentee. It enables you to contribute to your legacy while making a difference in someone’s life, and also helps you to develop your own skills and abilities. With the right mindset and approach, being a mentor can be an experience that gives you the opportunity to pay it forward.

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